The Essential Job Search Skills

It may be useful to think of the successful job search as a multi-part process, in which each part has its own set of skills that likely already have in one form or another, but that you can hone and develop further as you go. This purpose of this page is to provide an overview the steps of the job search, the essential skills most closely connected to them, and where to find the further information about them on this website and elsewhere.

ONE. Finding the Right Position.

Knowing what you’re looking for and being able to find it will be the touchstone upon which every other step of a successful job search is built, and your ability to find and evaluate job positions and opportunities will depend on knowing what career paths are a fit for you based on your specific interests, priorities and skills. Unfortunately, this crucial initial self-assessment and research stage is often also the most overlooked step in the process. We we acknowledge that skipping this step can lead to a lack of direction in the job search and ignorant of our own value, it will be no suprise that much job search frustration often traces back to here. Throughout the PhD we have we have finely tuned our skills in research and assessment – we should make these skills work for us in our job search from the very beginning.

Learn more and find helpful resources in our Explore Career Options and Explore Career Fields pages.

TWO. Resume & Cover Letter Writing.

There is no question that, as PhD’s, we are not only adept at writing and analyzing written texts, but also at presenting and marketing ourselves as professionals. The non-academic job search will require us to recalibrate these skills for an entirely new audience, one with different priorities, idioms and viewpoints than those we have become accustomed to in academia. We have already begun to understand these differences in our initial assessment and research. Now, as we enter the Resumé writing phase, we will focus our research even more to the specific positions, and begin to translate the skills, assets, and activities from our CV into a language and format that will make sense to potential employers. Much as we did with our dissertations, journal articles, term papers, conference presentations, etc. – we will need understand the purpose, conventions, and format of the resumé in order master it, which will amount to, among other things, refining our marketing message and make the limitations of the resumé work for us.

You can learn more and find helpful resources in our Resumé Writing Tip Sheet, (don’t forget to download the expanded PDF which has a list of common, active verbs and adjectives to assist in Resumé writing. In addition, two other CareerLAB Grad tips sheet are specifically geared toward the task of translating the CV into a successful Resumé: Five Essential Job Skills: From CV to Resumé and CV vs. Resumé: General Differences and Tips. In addition, the Explore Career Options and Explore Career Fields pages (already mentioned in part ONE above) will also be of great help and include important resources.

THREE. Networking.

Perhaps more than any of the other items on this list, the very concept of networking will evoke the greatest sense of antipathy and unease, conjuring as it does for many of us the most aversive forms of self-interest and ambition with the somewhat frightening prospect of forced social interactions, whose inherent awkwardness is rendered all the more unbearable by the addition of ulterior motives and agendas. While this may very well true of peer to peer networking among graduate students at conferences and other events, you will not find it is the case in the professional world –– under the aegis of the informational interview. Armed with the knowledge of your interests, skills and priorities you have acquired in your assessment, research, and resumé writing, alongside your the professionalism and etiquette you have learned in Grad school the informational interview will provide you with an accessible avenue to meet with professionals in you chosen field, gaining vital information on specific firms and industries while building your professional contacts.

You can learn more and find helpful resources in our Networking Tip Sheet. See also our Explore Career Options and Explore Career Fields pages for useful resources.

FOUR. Interviewing.

While networking may be the most aversive of the items on this list at first glance, interviewing is perhaps the most intimidating. The two main elements of successful interviewing are the ability to prepare, and the ability to be flexible and think on your feet – and you will find that you have developed these abilities in a variety of ways throughout the PhD.

For tips on how to prepare for job interviews and what to anticipate, see our job interview tip sheet. Our trained counselors provide advice on interview preparation, and even give mock interviews by appointment – schedule yours via or Handshake.

FIVE. Negotiation.